Twenty-six years ago, Air Force Captain Christopher Adams was with the 71st Rescue Squadron in Saudi Arabia. They were dealing with frequent attacks for many months.
Fortifying The Towers
On June 25, 1996, an attack on the Khobar Towers complex hurt hundreds of people and killed 19 airmen. The tower housed around 3,000 airmen, army soldiers, and French and British troops.
Due to an attack seven months prior, tougher security measures had been implemented. According to Brig. Gen. Terryl Schwalier, in a note to his wife, “We’ve turned our living area into a bit of a fortress-with cement barriers and concertina wire. Our cops are on 12-hour, shifts-having doubled up on the gates and increased their patrols.”
However, there were still vulnerabilities. There was a stretch of fence with a park behind it where Saudi Arabian families would hang out. Barriers were put in place, and Saudi police officers patrolled the area, but it was not completely secure.
Schwalier’s final day as commander was to be June 25 and at 9:00 pm. the tower’s occupants were home and Staff Sgt. Alfredo Guerrero was checking in with building 131s sentries. They watched as a sewage tanker truck and a white car pulled into the northern parking lot.
The men in the truck ran out and into the white car, which tore out of the parking lot. The three soldiers raised the alarm and residents began evacuating.
Saving A Life
Adams raced to get his boss Lt. Col. Thomas Shafer, the 71st Rescue Squadron commander. According to Air Force Magazine, the bomb exploded with the force of 20,000 to 30,000 pounds of TNT. Pieces of the barrier were flung into building 131.
“As a result of Captain Adams’ swift actions, Lieutenant Colonel Shafer survived with minor injuries. His personal courage and decisive action undoubtedly saved the life of his fellow wingman.”Lt. Col. Thomas Shafer
However, Adams lost his life in the blast with 18 other airmen. Shafer recommended Adams for the Airman’s Medal because of his heroic, life-saving actions that day.
He was posthumously recognized in a ceremony at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, 26 years after he saved Shafer’s life. “Adams represents what many of our airmen prepare to do,” said the squadron’s current commander Lt. Col. Brian Desautels. “I’m just glad we were able to get him the recognition he deserved.”